American Overdose, by Chris McGreal


Summary: In this heartbreaking work, McGreal covers a detailed history of illegal distribution of opioids by doctors, immoral advertising and drug pushing by big pharma, and the failures of the DEA and FDA in regulating prescriptions. He described how the careless over-prescription of opioids led to addiction, and too frequently to a switch to heroin and/or to overdose.

My thoughts: This book was utterly tragic. I am horrified at the failures of these powerful people who are responsible for keeping us safe. I already knew about the opioid epidemic and how people were switching from prescribed medications to heroin, but I had no clue how careless the FDA and DEA had been. I had no idea about the magnitude of immoral advertising by drug companies and of the illegal prescribing by doctors. I realize, of course, that most doctors prescribe as they see best, and that this book spent a lot of time focusing on a few doctors and pharmacies who did their best to make fortunes off of illegal prescriptions – so I’m not trying to say that all doctors are to blame. That was not McGreal’s point, either, though he did point out that even doctors who are prescribing as they see best may be working under misinformation about how well opioids work on chronic pain and about the addictiveness  of these medicines.

This is by far the most powerful bit of nonfiction I’ve read in quite a while. I would highly recommend this book to everybody – it’s a book that should be read. Especially for people who blame the “addicts” rather than recognizing the failures in the system that led to their addictions.

5 snowflakes


2 thoughts on “American Overdose, by Chris McGreal

  1. Great post about a different topic Rachel. I remember the crack/cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and further back, when I was a child I remember hearing so much about the herion epidemic in the 1970s. I was surprised by some statistics that I saw showing how much worse this is as compared to those earlier epidemics.

    Does McGreal suggest any solutions? I am curious as to what can be done to improve the situation.


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